why we love death & co October 07 2014, 0 Comments

We first started Stewart & Claire out of our fourth-floor walk-up apartment in Manhattan's East Village, right in the center of the cocktail universe. Within those few blocks were the legendary PDT, the tequila-focused Mayahuel and the bitters-obsessed Amor y Amargo. And then there was Death & Co. Windowless, with a hulking dungeon-like door, two-hour-plus waits on the weekends and drinks full of ingredients you never heard of, you'd think this bar was untouchable and deeply pretentious.  

Because we were lucky enough to live around the corner, we knew this wasn't the case at all. We'd often slip in on Saturday evenings at 6 pm, just as the bouncer started his shift, and nab seats at the marble bar. We loved watching the bartenders mix the house-made tinctures with obscure booze sourced from even more obscure parts of the world and ultimately pour the drink into a beautiful and very specific glass.

To some people, the pomp and circumstance just to have a cocktail might have seemed ridiculous, but we loved the magic of it all. The ceremony, the conversations we had with the bartenders and the feeling of being enveloped in this luxe cave-like space away from the mayhem of the East Village were all part of the experience. 

As we relaxed into our drinks, we'd often talk about what we wanted from life. Should we move to Brooklyn? Maybe have a kid? Should I see if I could really turn this lip balm-making hobby into a business? When I eventually started working with our graphic designer to create Stewart & Claire's branding, Death & Co's ornate Victorian graphics and materials juxtaposed with its warm, rustic touches absolutely influenced me. 

Fast forward a few years. We have moved to Brooklyn. We do have a kid. We are, indeed, working on this business. Thanks to all of this life change, we now rarely go Death & Co, but it's still a very special place for us.

Coincidentally, a very good friend, who is a literary agent, helped Death & Co sell its book to Ten Speed Press. Another friend helped write the book. 

Earlier this year, when plotting our first limited edition collection, I remembered that the Death & Co book would be out in the fall. I floated the idea of a collaboration by the owner, David Kaplan, and he loved it. 

Instead of mimicking specific cocktails, we decided to create balms inspired by categories of drinks--boozy, citrusy and smoky. Like Death & Co's drinks, the balms are complex and interesting but still inviting. For two of the balms, we used illustrations from Death & Co's incredible artist, Tim Tomkinson. We're packaging them in hand-stamped muslin bags, each of which is hand-numbered. And at the end of the year, we will stop producing them forever. 

If you love cocktails, our quirkier lip balms or just weird experiments in collaboration, we hope you'll give the collection a try.